Marci Kwon

Assistant Professor
Art History
Ph.D. Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 2016
Marci Kwon

On Leave Until January 2022 

A scholar of American Art, Kwon's research and teaching interests include the intersection of fine art and vernacular practice, theories of modernism, cultural exchange between Asia and the Americas, critical race theory, and "folk" and "self-taught" art.  She is the co-director of the Cantor Arts Center's Asian American Art Initiative.  Her book Enchantments: Joseph Cornell and American Modernism (Princeton University Press, 2021) explores Cornell’s attempts to figure enchantment—an ephemeral force that exceeds rational explanation—in his box constructions, assemblages, and cinematic experiments.  More broadly, this project uses Cornell’s artistic career and wide circle of acquaintances, which included artists, poets, writers, and filmmakers, as a lens through which to understand enchantment’s centrality to midcentury conversations about art’s relationship to the public, popular culture, and potential for moral authority.  This wide-ranging, interdisciplinary study explores Cornell’s engagement with a number of key episodes in American modernism, including the transatlantic migration of Symbolism, Surrealism, and ballet to the United States; the efflorescence of “folk” art in the 1930s; Abstract Expressionism; and the emergence of New York School poetry and experimental cinema.   



Additional articles address Isamu Noguchi,  Appalachian Spring and Japanese internment (Modernism/modernity Print Plus, available online at; John Kane and amateurism, and labor (Third Text:2020); race and value (Saturation: Racial Matter, Institutional Limits, and the Excesses of Representation, MIT Press: 2020)Japanese internment crafts (forthcoming, Center for the Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts/NGA); Surrealism and folk art at the Museum of Modern Art (forthcoming, Making the Modern); Martin Wong and Orientalism (The Present Prospects of Social Art History: 2021); and Asian American art (Panorama Journal: 2021).  She is currently working on a book about art, artifice, and authenticity in post-Earthquake San Francisco Chinatown. 



Kwon is the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania's 2016 Zuckerman Prize, awarded to the best dissertation in American art/culture and history, and her research has been supported by grants from the ACLS/Luce Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Mellon Foundation, the Terra Foundation, the Hellman Fellows Fund, Clayman Institute of Gender Research, Yale's Center for the Study of Material & Visual Cultures of Religion, and the Stanford Humanities Center.   She has also held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.   At Stanford, Kwon is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Asian American Studies, American Studies, the Center for East Asia, and Feminist and Gender Studies, and serves on the steering committee of Modern Thought and Literature.  She is the recipient of the Asian American Studies Faculty Prize, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Teaching Award, the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, and the Faculty Women's Forum's Inspiring Early Career Academic Award. 

Sample Courses: 

Asian American Art, 1850-Present (undergraduate lecture)

American Mystics (graduate seminar)

American Art and Anthropology (graduate seminar)

Folk/Outsider/Self-Taught  (graduate seminar)

Migration and Diaspora in American Art (undergraduate lecture)

Objecthood (graduate seminar) 

Pacific Dreams: Art in California (undergraduate lecture) 


McMurtry 320

Research Interests